Smart art: Whistler, British Columbia's brand transition to include arts and culture

AuthorKylie McMullan
Published date01 May 2018
Date01 May 2018
Smart art: Whistler, British Columbia's brand transition to
include arts and culture
Kylie McMullan
Department of industrial economics and
management, KTH Royal Institute of
Technology, Stockholm, Sweden
Kylie McMullan, Department of industrial
economics and management, KTH Royal
Institute of Technology, Stockholm, Sweden.
The importance of city and destination branding is well studied. Cities and regions choose to pur-
sue branding efforts for a variety of reasons. Some regions that choose to invest in branding are
looking to reposition their brand to encompass arts and culture in order to stimulate economic
growth. The Resort Municipality of Whistler, British Columbia, has employed this approach in
an effort to grow yearround tourism and protect itself from a changing climate and business
environment. Leveraging 2 of Hankinson's (2009) destination branding components, partnerships
and communications, to the case study of Whistler, British Columbia, this paper explores its brand
repositioning towards the arts and culture.
It is said that city branding is an old art but a new science(Brown,
McDonagh, & Shultz, 2013 p. 1254; Houghton & Stevens, 2011, p.
52). This pronouncement underscores how cities have long known
the importance of standing out from their peers in order to attract
and retain resources. Both urban studies researchers and local gov-
ernments around the world understand place branding's benefits
(Kalandides, Kavaratzis, Lucarelli, & Olof Berg, 2011). By projecting
a strong image to both local citizens and potential visitors, regions
hope to drive economic growth. Yet in the world of branded places,
it is hard for many, even those with unique and appealing attributes,
to stand out and attract citizens, tourists, employment opportunities,
and business investment (Virgo & de Chernatony, 2006). As a result,
many municipalities turn to arts and culture to assist them in enhanc-
ing their community's public image. One only needs to conjure up
images of New York, Paris, or Florence to understand how a strong
alignment with arts and culture can romance residents and entice
This paper will explore the literature around the phenomenon of
destination branding as well as the role local or regional government's
investment in the arts acts to distinguish their jurisdictions from their
competitors. An illustration of this practice will be demonstrated
through the contemporary example of the ski community of Whistler,
located in British Columbia, Canada. Whistler is leveraging investment
in arts and culture to expand its brand with the hopes of attracting
more tourists and economic development. The case study will look at
Whistler's longterm plans for arts and culture, the projects the resort
municipality has embarked on in order to execute those plans, and how
it is broadcasting those plans as part of its repositioning efforts. This
paper will also apply parts of Hankinson's (2009) destination city
branding theory to the resort municipality. Whistler is an interesting
example because, although it is already known for its natural beauty
and as a worldclass winter sports resort, it has been implementing a
longterm strategy to reposition its brand to become better known as
an arts destination in order to enhance its yearround appeal and guard
against potential disruptions to its core business due to climate change.
The purpose of this paper is to examine how a destination might repo-
sition itself towards arts and culture as a way to protect and grow its
tourism economy.
Prior to examining the current literature on city, place, and desti-
nation branding, it is helpful to provide definitions for key terms that
will appear in this paper. First, it is important to make the distinction
that as part of its repositioning efforts Whistler is investing in arts
and culture and then promoting them as a way to reinforce the resort
municipality's connection to them. This is separate from simply pro-
moting the arts altruistically. It is also useful to define arts and culture.
Arts and culture are often bundled together, but are in fact two differ-
ent concepts. Defining the arts is more problematic than it would
seem, as it is a highly subjective concept and has been subjected to
much debate (Suniti Bal, 2012). It also tends to be highly political, as
the answer can affect government policy towards various types of
art and arts funding (Heikkinen, 2008). For the purposes of this paper,
we will define the arts as including various expressions of creativity
from performance arts, visual arts, to applied arts (Gaquin, 2008; The
Role of Arts and Culture in Planning Practice, 2017). The definition
of culture typically includes the arts, in combination with a
community's values, beliefs, and history (Houston, 2007; The Role of
Arts and Culture in Planning Practice, 2017). The terms artsand cul-
tureare often used together to describe a variety of artistic disciplines
DOI: 10.1002/pa.1656
J Public Affairs. 2018;18:e1656.
Copyright © 2017 John Wiley & Sons, 1of7

To continue reading

Request your trial

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT